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PM TO STAND BY RODGERS

31 July 2014
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PNG wants Solomons to withdraw candidate to Forum’s top job

SOLOMON Islands will not withdraw Dr Jimmy Rodgers candidacy for the Pacific Islands Forum secretary general’s post, which will be decided today in Palau.

The country’s delegation led by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo is coming under intense pressure from Papua New Guinea to withdraw Dr Rodger from the contest and instead throw its support for PNG’s Dame Meg Taylor.

But a senior government official in the delegation told the Solomon Star here in Palau this is not going to happen.

“Dr Rodgers is our candidate. There is no way we are going to withdraw him from the contest. We will stand by him to the end,” the official said.

Dr Rodgers, who completed his two terms with the New Caledonia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) last year, is here in Palau with the government delegation.

Besides PNG’s Dame Taylor, he will be up against Fiji’s Kaliopate Tavola, Federate States of Micronesia’s (FSM) Fabian Nimea, and Marshall Islands’ Tony de Brum.

PNG, led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, is engaging in heavy lobbying on the sideline of the summit, in a bid to get its candidate through.

As this paper went to the press last night, Mr Lilo and Mr O’Neill were meeting over the issue.

Said the official: “PNG will be pushing to have us withdraw Dr Rodgers from the contest. But Solomon Islands has already made its decision.

“And that’s the message Mr Lilo will convey to his PNG counterpart.”

The official said Dr Rodgers is a man of outstanding regional standing and the Solomon Islands Government feels he should continue to serve the region in this new role.

“He will certainly bring a lot of credibility into the Forum if he is appointed to this new job.

“This is how we see it and it’s why we are pushing for his candidacy.

“No Solomon Islander has held that position before so it’s time we are given the chance and there’s no better Solomon Islander than Dr Rodgers.”

The official said they are counting on the support of the smaller island states, who have a good relationship with Dr Rodgers during his time as head of SPC.

“New Zealand has indicated its support to us so we are crossing our fingers,” he said.

The new secretary general, who will replace Samoa’s Tuilomo Neroni Slade, will be appointed during the leaders’ retreat on Palau’s far northern island of Peleliu.

Mr Slade, whose second term expires in October this year, earlier explained that the appointment will be based on consensus.
 
“In the event that this is not reached, the decision will be put to a vote,” he said.

By OFANI EREMAE
In Koror, Palau

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